Town of Emmitsburg
300A S. Seton Ave Emmitsburg, Maryland

Planning Commission Minutes
Emmitsburg Town Office
July 26, 2004

Chairman Staiger called the meeting to order at 7:30PM.

Approval of Previous Meetings’ Minutes

June 28, 2004 Regular Meeting: no changes were requested
Motion: by Mr. Kapriva to approve the minutes as submitted. Seconded by Mr. Lind.

Vote: Approved 3-0. Mr. Briggs abstained since he had not attended the meeting.

Agenda Items

Request for on street parking in Pembrook Woods Subdivision – Review and Recommendation to the Board of Commissioners.

Mr. Lucas provided the staff presentation. Mr. Lucas stated that Developer, Buckeye Development, requested a special exception allowing narrow pavement widths and a dry swale system instead of the traditional curb and gutter system that would normally be required by the Town’s Subdivision regulations. That special exception was granted and the Developer agreed to a plat restriction which prohibits on street parking in the development.

Mr. Lucas continued that Brookfield Drive is 30’ wide while the other streets in the development are 24’ wide. Based on these widths, on street parking would not be permitted based on the requirements of Town Ordinance 16.16.030 which requires a pavement width of 34’ for single side parking and 40’ for parking on both sides of the street.

Mr. Lucas stated that 24’ of paving might be adequate to allow some parking but that two actions would have to be taken in order to allow on street parking in the subdivision:

  • The requirements of Town Ordinance 16.16.030 would need to be changed by the Mayor and Board of Commissioners to allow for parking on 24’ of pavement.

  • The parking prohibition would need to be removed from the plat. There is some question over who would be responsible for submitting a correction plat – the Homeowner’s Association or the Developer – and how that process would be handled. Approval of a correction plat would be the responsibility of the Planning Commission and would be based on changes to the Town Ordinance.

Mr. Staiger asked Mr. Lucas to review the specific, current requirements of the ordinance. Mr. Briggs briefly discussed some of the history of the approval process of the subdivision over the last 15 years. Mr. Kapriva asked if changes would be specific to the Pembrook Woods Subdivision. Mr. Lucas responded that changes to the ordinance should apply to the entire town while the correction plat would be specific to the Pembrook Woods Subdivision. Mr. Lind asked if the changes would require curb and gutter to be placed in Pembrook Woods. Mr. Lucas replied, not necessarily, although the current situation arose from accepting the Developer’s proposed storm water management system.

Public Comment

Darlene Armacost, 4125 Carrick Court, stated she was a registered nurse and that although she appreciated the technical discussion of the issue she wanted to speak from a health and safety standpoint. Ms. Armacost felt that on street parking on an on going basis would be detrimental due to the children playing in the community but would like to see some compromise that might allow some event parking and asked that the Commission take in to account the well being of the children.

Rose Luczak, 2030 Pembrook Court, spoke in favor of some on street parking subject to a) restriction to one side of the street, b) no parking on Brookfield Drive due to the volume of traffic, c) no overnight parking or some sort of time restriction to control long term parking, d) allowance for some overflow guest parking since no provision was made for this in the community, and, e) ensure compliance to codes regarding parking in proximity to fire hydrant, stop signs, etc.

Jen Staiger,1230 Brookfield Drive, Pembrook Woods HOA Secretary, commented that the HOA had sent out an e-mail to 60 of the members of the community and had received approximately 25 responses. Two were in favor of unrestricted parking while two favored no change. The balance supported some sort of short term special event parking. Most residents seem to have some concerns with unrestricted on street parking. All houses have 4 driveway and 2 garage spaces for parking. Due to the fact no usable common space of play areas were provided, children use the streets for playing and bike riding. Concerns were raised about children competing for space on the roads and potential damage to the dry swale system. Need to consider how any special event parking would be regulated.

Eric Soter,2070 Pembrook Court, stated that parking on the streets in Pembrook Woods would be counter to the low impact design standards adopted and that parking on the streets would inevitably lead to parking on the grass which might damage the swales. From a safety standpoint, due to the low impact design, streets have become an extension of the “pedestrian way” since streets are narrower and in many cases sidewalks don’t exist. Mr. Soter also expressed concern about access of fire vehicles if on street parking was allowed.

Bill O’Neil (Commissioner, Town of Emmitsburg) 3010 Stonehurst Drive, stated he was a resident of section one of Pembrook Woods, also had children, and was previously on the Pembrook Woods HOA Board. Commissioner O’Neil commented that the road size was reduced due to successful lobbying by the Developer and that the parking situation became an issue early on. The reason was that a number of other residents were cited including himself and his visitors on a number of occasions over a period of a year. Commissioner O’Neil commented that parking was not sufficient and that he only had space for two cars in the garage and four cars in the driveway maximum. He stated that 15 or 17 cars received citations at his daughter’s birthday party, that 6 cars received citations on a separate occasion, and that he was warned to move cars off the street around Thanksgiving or Christmas. Commissioner O’Neil said his understanding was that citations were no longer being issued until the town took control of the roads but that it will become an issue for the residents of Pembrook Woods in the future. Commissioner O’Neil described how the previous Town Commissioners had tied 2-2 when voting whether to address this issue so the current policy has continued. He stated that he is the Commissioner who brought this issue back because a way needs to be found to provide adequate parking commenting that the Developer saved approximately $600,000 using the swale system and reducing road widths. Commenting that it was not fair to have parking on only on one side or both he recommended alternating by day, allowing the purchase of special permits from the town, or parking on holidays with no permit. He agreed that it would not be good to park on the grass but felt it would be the responsibility of the homeowner to keep an eye out. He concluded by stating that this situation has been thrust on the homeowners, that he has heard from a number of people in the past and that he felt very strongly that something must be done to address parking in Pembrook Woods.

Mike Hoffman, 2025 Pembrook Court, Pembrook HOA Vice President, Mr. Hoffman felt there was a need for some form of special events parking since there is no overflow parking in the development and no ability to have any. He felt the roads were not wide enough to support parking on both sides of the street. Mr. Hoffman also stated that he didn’t believe swale damage would be an issue unless there was parking deep into the swale and that the HOA could police ruts with the homeowners. He believed there should be some sort of time limit to parking and that the side of the street to be parked on could be regulated by the time of year as is in Cumberland, MD. He felt Brookfield Drive could be used for on-street parking.

Commissioner Discussion

Mr. Kapriva asked Mr. Lucas about the possibility of having “special event permit parking.” Mr. Lucas responded that this was not currently done within the town but it might be possible to establish a permit system charging a fee for the service.  He noted that the plat restriction still exists at this time. Mr. Lind asked if the residents had been aware of the parking restrictions when making the decision to purchase lots. Mr. Soter said yes. Mr. O’Neil said no. Mr. Staiger said he wasn’t sure. Mr. Hoffman said he had the impression it was something you were only told if you asked. Mr. Briggs commented that the welfare and safety issue raised by residents were important and would like to get broader input from the residents although there seemed to be some need for a special event parking. Mr. Staiger addressed the need to change the existing plat and the existing ordinance prior to addressing how to manage any parking. Mr. Lind asked if this was the same as a special exception. Mr. Lucas responded that changes should effective town wide. Mr. Briggs stated again that he would like to hear from more residents. Mr. Kapriva stated that he would like to hear from the fire department.

MOTION: by Chairman Staiger that the Planning and Zoning Commission investigate a regulated, special event parking process for the town. Seconded by Mr. Kapriva.

Vote: 2 in favor (Staiger / Kapriva) vs. 2 opposed (Briggs / Lind)
The motion was not carried.

MOTION: by Vice Chairman Briggs to address the process for changing the existing Pembrook Woods Subdivision plat prior to investigating a regulated, special event parking process for the town. Seconded by Mr. Kapriva.

Vote: 3 in favor (Briggs / Kapriva / Staiger) vs 1 opposed (Lind)
The motion was approved.

Request for Free Standing Signs in Village Zone (VZ) Review and Recommendations to the Mayor and Board of Commissioners.

Mr. Lucas commented that the current sign ordinance tightly regulates the placement of free standing signs. An applicant has approached the Board of Commissioners asking for a change and this has been forwarded to P&Z for a recommendation.

Mr. Kapriva asked if there were any additional arguments that had not been addressed previously. Mr. Lucas responded that he was not aware of any but there seemed to be some concern that the business community felt the 35 foot setback provision was arbitrary. Two requests are with the Planning Department according to Mr. Lucas.

Mr. Briggs stated that he understands that businesses want to get their names out where they can best be seen. He noted that Pizza Hut had previously been denied a free standing sign based on the current ordinances.

Mr. Lucas commented that there have been two recent requests that he is aware of - one about three months ago and one pending now. He noted that, in staff’s opinion, signage placed on the structures as permitted by the current ordinances would be adequate.

Mr. Staiger noted that it was not unusual for municipalities to regulate signage and that different standards could be seen from Route 40 in Frederick, to Main Street on Taneytown, to restrictive controls such as in Columbia, MD. Mr. Lucas then stated that the placement of signage, not the size, was at issue. He said that all that was in question was where signs could be located on the property. Mr. Staiger then asked Mr. Lucas exactly what the commission was being asked to address and asked if there was an applicant to speak on the issue. Mr. Lucas stated that no one was here to speak on the issue.

Emmitsburg Town Commissioner Bill O’Neil asked to speak and was recognized. He noted that there were exceptions to the current ordinance such as the Carriage House Restaurant and that signs on the street do help business. He stated that the general consensus is that Emmitsburg would like to foster business in the Village Zone and that like it or not, Emmitsburg has a carriage, not a pedestrian, trade. The question, he continued, is if Emmitsburg wants to improve our businesses. People aren’t walking by, they are driving by and if they don’t see your business, they’ll go someplace else. His concern was that a 35 foot setback is too great and a sign wouldn’t be seen. He offered the signs found in Gettysburg as a possible standard and presented examples of what might or might not be allowed.

Mr. Lind then asked Mr. Lucas what might be substituted for the 35 foot setback requirement. Mr. Lucas discussed possible criteria from the current requirement to just beyond the public right of way.

Mr. Soter, from the audience, mentioned the possibility of establishing a locational variance which could be addressed on a case by case basis.

Mr. Staiger commented that changes to the ordinance affecting the Village Zone would effect more than just the Main Street and North/South Seton corridors and that changing the ordinance opens the Commission up to challenges based on what any individual thinks is fair and reasonable or is an acceptable design. He then requested a motion for recommendation to the Mayor and Board of Commissioners.

Mr. Kapriva stated that since none of the people concerned were present to address the issue, he thought no change should be made and offered a motion.

MOTION: by Mr. Kapriva that no change in the Sign Ordinance is recommended at this time. Seconded by Mr. Lind.

Vote: Approved - 2 in favor (Kapriva & Lind), 1 opposed (Staiger), 1 abstention (Briggs)